Monday, January 31, 2011

From Homeland to Hometown: Assessing the Impact

This is the first time I've even attempted to write about the life-altering experience that was my Taglit Birthright trip to Israel. It seems so cliche, doesn't it? To say that it was life-altering. That's what everyone says! And what does that even mean? What changes have I made? Am I someone different? The truth is that I came home & felt much the same, despite promises to myself that post-Israel Kate would be a new & better woman. Yet here I am, doing all the same things & making all the same decisions.

But still, I feel different, in ways I can't yet comprehend or explain. When I think about it or try to put it to words, I'm overcome by emotion & stopped short. The words will come - they always do - but for now, it's just a feeling, a feeling that I am not the same was I was before, even if, for practical purposes, I am.

I climbed Masada at sunrise. I rode a camel in the Negev. I walked the streets where Roman carriages once traveled. I stared up at the stars from the middle of a desert. I slept in a Bedouin tent with four dozen strangers. I looked out over the Gaza Strip & into the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. I ate falafel stuffed with french fries. I toured a seaside cemetery in the dark. I visited the Supreme Court of Justice, where Israeli law is decided. I floated in the Dead Sea covered in mud. I played in a waterfall. I ate Yemeni food in the Kabbalah capital. I partied hard in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. I fell in love with 50 strangers.

Everyone I know said I was going on the trip too late, that I should have visited Israel long ago. And while I don't believe that things happen for a reason, I do believe that there's always a lesson to be learned. In this case, I may have gone too late, but it turned out to be precisely the right time: I needed to visited Israel with these people, my beshert, my homeland soulmates. Together, we took the trip of a lifetime & turned it into the experience of a lifetime.

We are all changed, & I bet that most of us can't tell you how. But we are. Changed & thankful.

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